Modern events, modern offerings

It is common knowledge that Romans, Greeks, and other ancient cultures organized games in honour of the Gods. The Olympics are a prime example of that, but there were many other festivities of the sort, in both major urban centres and smaller provincial settlements. It was an important part of community life and religious practices in the ancient world and it has everything to be so again in our days, where great open festivities remain an important form of entertainment and celebration. The only problem is, few if any western polytheistic groups or individuals have the means to organize something of the sort. But if one can’t take the initiative of putting things together and officially dedicate an entire public event to one or more gods, there is always the possibility of making individual participation count as an offering. Much like going on a journey for religious purposes, using a road or means of transportation that everyone else uses for a myriad of reasons, but without diminishing the merit of one’s individual and pious actions.

This is something I’ve been doing since last year. I don’t have the means to organize an open sporting event dedicated to Mercury, Jupiter, Ingui, or Minerva, no matter how much I would love to do it, complete with an opening ceremony, flags with sacred symbols, music, and the final coronation of the winners. I do however have the possibility of taking part in events where I can dedicate my actions to one or more deities. And this can be done with lots of modern things: competitions of any sort, workshops, volunteering, etc. Gestures that become sacred by reason of being given as an offerings to the Gods, honouring, glorifying, or simply entertaining Them. And while winning is great – when there is the possibility of winning – the most important thing is that you do your best.

Tomorrow, I’ll be doing just that. Just like last year, I’ll be taking part in Lisbon’s Half-Marathon for both personal reasons – I do enjoy the challenge – but also as a way of honouring Minerva and Mercury. The former because it’s an event that takes place close to Her birthday on March 19th, thereby making the race a full part of my Minervalia celebrations; the latter because the finish line is next to His public altar in Belém and since I believe Hermes and Mercury to be the same god, an athletic experience can be a proper offering to Him. Actually, aware of that, last year I used my caduceus pendant for the first time during the half-marathon, which further linked my participation in the event to Mercury as well as to Minerva. And I might have had a sign of just that: in 2011 (2764 a.u.c.), as I was next to the starting line waiting for the race to begin, I saw two birds of prey circling over the crowd side by side.

In time, a set of words and gestures have been forming as a way of consecrating my actions in events open to the general public. As it stands, tomorrow I’ll start by making morning prayers and offerings of incense to Minerva and Mercury, naming the event I’ll be taking part in and how I expect to honour Them thus, promising to give Them something in the end and asking Them to bless a portion of grain that will be used to mark the beginning and the end of the half-marathon. After that, I’ll put on my caduceus, which I cleaned and left by Mercury’s altar the night before, and take the train to the starting point. Once there, I intend to pile stones by the roadside and make an offering of wheat to Mercury, just before dropping another portion of grain on the floor as I give my first step in the race, thus dedicating all of my racing steps to the Gods. Once in Belem, after crossing the finish line, I’ll make one last offering to Mercury on His public altar, of grain and a portion of the food or beverage that is given to every participant. And, back home, I’ll give my medal to Minerva, placing it next to Her clay altar.

There are other possibilities and other gods who can be honoured in such a way. It’s really up to you, any indications you might get from a deity, and the events that take place in your area. Just remember that your performance is an offering and should therefore be presented with the same care and attention to detail with which you would give food or objects to the Gods.


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